California probate attorney fees

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dual
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California probate attorney fees

Post by dual »

edit: I should clarify the background of my question. This is regarding a friend who died without a will. His only family is a single surviving sibling. But he had about $1million in CDs. By the table, the lawyers fee is $23,000. This seems outrageously high to me--much higher than just paying the lawyer's hourly rate and expenses. So I am gathering information for negotiations with lawyers regarding their fees."

websites like the Nolo Press give a table of California probate attorney fees that depend on the estate assets
Here are the current rates:
4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
3% of the next $100,000
2% of the next $800,000
1% of the next $9 million
.5% of the next $15 million
https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... view.html

but the website also says:
California lawyers don’t have to charge this way—they can bill by the hour or charge a flat fee
What is the experience of Bogleheads? Were you charged from the table or did the lawyer charge by the hour?

if the charge is from the table does that include court filing fees and other expenses?
Last edited by dual on Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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snackdog
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by snackdog »

It can vary a lot depending on the work involved. Low side is $10k. High side is 100% of estate if a Will is contested for years.
quantAndHold
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by quantAndHold »

My experience is that we haven’t had to test California probate, but the attorney we went to to draw up wills many years ago recommended a trust to avoid exactly this problem. We were able to get a simple trust this past March for <$1000. Even if we could find an attorney that charges less than the allowed probate fees, avoiding an expensive probate for an estate that basically contains a house and a couple of bank accounts seems like a no brainer.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
stan1
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by stan1 »

I'm assuming this discussion is for someone who has already died intestate and not someone deciding whether to get their own affairs in order? Or is it an academic discussion not based on any particular need?

No one in California (nor anywhere else) should intentionally plan to die intestate. There's no reason to compare the cost of probate with the cost of an estate plan if that's the intent. If the person has low assets use Nolo or Legal Zoom rather than dying intestate.

If the person has already passed away look into a small estate probate to see if it applies. Even with small estate probate available help your heirs out by having an estate plan.
Big Dog
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by Big Dog »

quantAndHold wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:36 am My experience is that we haven’t had to test California probate, but the attorney we went to to draw up wills many years ago recommended a trust to avoid exactly this problem. We were able to get a simple trust this past March for <$1000. Even if we could find an attorney that charges less than the allowed probate fees, avoiding an expensive probate for an estate that basically contains a house and a couple of bank accounts seems like a no brainer.
CA allows a home to be transferred ToD. Add in a few bank accounts with PoD/ToD, and little/no need for even a trust. With no assets available for contest, what's left for "probate" becomes a few simple forms to be filed.
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dual
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by dual »

stan1 wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:49 am I'm assuming this discussion is for someone who has already died intestate and not someone deciding whether to get their own affairs in order? Or is it an academic discussion not based on any particular need?
See the edit to the original post. As you can see the estate assets are more than ~$160,000 so it is not a small estate.
MadHungarian
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by MadHungarian »

And also, the person has already passed away, so it's a little too late for any of those estate planning options now...
The estate is going full estate probate and there's nothing anyone can do about that now. The only option on the table now is how to minimize the damage from the lawyer bills.
bsteiner
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by bsteiner »

You can’t probate the Will since there is no Will.

Since the estate is too small to pay estate tax (though if the decedent was married you might file a return for portability), if the only assets are CDs, you might look for someone who would do it on a time basis. The administrator could do the legwork to collect the accounts.

You’ll need to do or have someone do the decedent’s final income tax returns and at least one year of fiduciary income tax returns but they shouldn’t be complicated.

Of course, in a more complicated estate of that size the time could be more than the statutory schedule.
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dual
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by dual »

bsteiner wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 12:21 pm you might look for someone who would do it on a time basis. The administrator could do the legwork to collect the accounts.
...
Of course, in a more complicated estate of that size the time could be more than the statutory schedule.
Thanks for the information. I think the first case is applicable. Now to find a lawyer who is willing to do it on a time basis.
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CAsage
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by CAsage »

How paperwork savvy is the Surviving Sibling? The kind of person who does their own taxes and financial planning? One doesn't HAVE to have a lawyer even for a larger estate. Get the Nolo Press book "How to Probate an Estate in Ca", see if the forms look doable. If there is one heir, no controversy, one is willing to slog through the paperwork, and make trips to the Courthouse to file, you could save a bundle. Or, yes, look for a lawyer who will do it for an hourly fee. Note that can add up fast (a good estate lawyer I called recently bills at $600/hour, but hopefully most of this probate would be handled by a paralegal or clerk).

https://store.nolo.com/products/how-to- ... &utm_term=+-+
Salvia Clevelandii "Winifred Gilman" my favorite. YMMV; not a professional advisor.
quantAndHold
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by quantAndHold »

Big Dog wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:58 am
quantAndHold wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:36 am My experience is that we haven’t had to test California probate, but the attorney we went to to draw up wills many years ago recommended a trust to avoid exactly this problem. We were able to get a simple trust this past March for <$1000. Even if we could find an attorney that charges less than the allowed probate fees, avoiding an expensive probate for an estate that basically contains a house and a couple of bank accounts seems like a no brainer.
CA allows a home to be transferred ToD. Add in a few bank accounts with PoD/ToD, and little/no need for even a trust. With no assets available for contest, what's left for "probate" becomes a few simple forms to be filed.
True, but...

It’s honestly a lot easier to just put everything in the trust, and keep the trust up to date, rather than having to make changes to PoD/ToD on deeds and accounts every time something changes.

And if you miss a single brokerage or bank account, it’s really easy for the amount subject to probate to go above that arbitrarily small $166,250 limit. Then you’re at the mercy of CA probate laws.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
Big Dog
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Re: California probate attorney fees

Post by Big Dog »

quantAndHold wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:54 pm
Big Dog wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:58 am
quantAndHold wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:36 am My experience is that we haven’t had to test California probate, but the attorney we went to to draw up wills many years ago recommended a trust to avoid exactly this problem. We were able to get a simple trust this past March for <$1000. Even if we could find an attorney that charges less than the allowed probate fees, avoiding an expensive probate for an estate that basically contains a house and a couple of bank accounts seems like a no brainer.
CA allows a home to be transferred ToD. Add in a few bank accounts with PoD/ToD, and little/no need for even a trust. With no assets available for contest, what's left for "probate" becomes a few simple forms to be filed.
True, but...

It’s honestly a lot easier to just put everything in the trust, and keep the trust up to date, rather than having to make changes to PoD/ToD on deeds and accounts every time something changes.

And if you miss a single brokerage or bank account, it’s really easy for the amount subject to probate to go above that arbitrarily small $166,250 limit. Then you’re at the mercy of CA probate laws.
To each their own. I guess I don't see much effort in managing a "house and a couple of bank accounts" (per your hypo). And since CA is a community property state, and kids the only heirs, PoD/ToD is a no-brainer.
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